If there are any lessons to be learnt from the British elections, it would be the civility and respect for democratic opinions that has been the outcome of the elections. Indeed, in the course of the campaigns, there was no abuse, threats or intimidation and the social media was not turned into a battleground of vile and bigoted partisanship. The Labour party leader Ed Milliband congratulated David Cameron on his victory and promptly resigned his position. The Liberal Democrats which was in a coalition with Cameron’s Conservative party (Tories) lost many seats and their leader Nick Clegg likewise honourably resigned. In Scotland where the Labour party was hitherto always dominant, the Scottish National party (SNP) broke the jinx and won 56 of the 59 seats under the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon, radically changing the political landscape of Scotland.
In all these, there was civility, decorum and respect as each of the parties, winners and losers began the process of planning for the challenges ahead. For the winning party they set about outlining a program of government while the parties that lost began a process of electing new leadership alongside constructive debate as they prepared for their role in the opposition. I didn’t for instance see anyone equating David Cameron’s electoral victory to a war victory, neither did I see anyone abusing and ridiculing those who didn’t vote for David Cameron’s winning party. I also did not see, anyone or group entertaining fears of exclusion on account of not voting for the winning party, nor did I see anyone or group considering those who voted for the losing party as having inflicted a political misfortune on themselves. The elections in Britain showcased democracy in its true meaning as a competitive contest of leadership that respects the opinion of all voters, winners or losers alike. But even these important lessons in democracy must have been lost on Nigeria being a country where lessons are never learnt.
If anything, the 2015 electoral cycle exposed Nigeria as an address where people either do not understand the true meaning of democracy or are naturally inclined towards “do or die” undemocratic tendencies and the winner takes all syndrome that has haunted the nation since the 1st republic. This was sufficiently illustrated in the course of the 2015 elections when during the campaigns, abuse, lies, tribalism, hate campaigns and violence was the order of the day. The social media became a virtual theatre of ethnic war with Nigerians hurling all kinds of vitriol on each other to the extent that some even called for genocide. No less a person than the Oba of Lagos shamelessly took partisanship, voter intimidation, tribalism and do or die democracy to a new height when imbued with a morbid fear of the strength of Eastern votes in Lagos threatened to drown Easterners in the Lagoon through magical means if they didn’t vote for his preferred candidate. The world no doubt watched derisively as the most populous black nation typically made a mockery of every basic principle of democracy.
After a hotly contested/divisive election one would have thought that the historic concession of President Goodluck Jonathan would calm frayed nerves and return the nation to democratic principles; but that was hardly the case. Not only did suggestions of impending exclusion/marginalisation and labelling of self inflicted political misfortune against groups or regions that didn’t vote for APC/Buhari become common place, the post election period came with another sinister development; a vicious smear campaign by APC extremists against those who didn’t vote for Buhari. In this Easterners were particular targets as all kinds of ridicule and slurs were hurled at them for not voting Buhari/APC. It got to the extent that noble laureate Wole Soyinka was framed up by an APC online media outlet (The Cable Newspaper). They later retracted and apologised to Wole Soyinka for their false story, but the fact that the APC media could contrive such a bigoted and patently hypocritical and stupid ridicule of a people just because they didn’t vote for Buhari/APC demonstrates the extent to which they are despots rather than democrats.
The obscenity and stupidity of the alleged statement/propaganda falsely credited to Soyinka by the Cable Newspaper is so obvious with their illogical claim that Igbo votes for Jonathan were predictable. How silly; when did predictable votes become an issue in a democracy? In the United States, African Americans and other minorities always predictably voted for the Democratic Party. Indeed, America has permanent red states that vote for the Republican Party and permanent blue states that vote for the Democratic Party in every election. In Britain Scotland as far back as possible always voted for the Labour party. Here in Nigeria, votes are even more predictable. Since the 4th republic, the North has voted for Buhari in every election including 2011 when Goodluck Jonathan, then very popular won everywhere else except the North. The Southwest historically voted in block for one of their own from the time of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. In 1999 they gave their block votes to Olu Falae and again in 2003 they gave block votes to Olusegun Obasanjo when he contested against the same Muhammadu Buhari. The East likewise voted for one of their own from the time of Dr Nnamidi Azikiwe. Ironically, the coalition between Buhari’s CPC and Tinubu’s ACN was based on the calculation of predictable votes from both regions.
Predictability of votes has thus been a feature of politics elsewhere and even more so in Nigeria since the 1st republic that I can’t understand how the APC media decided to use such laughable analogy as propaganda. Another even more hypocritical and infantile allegation also falsely credited to Soyinka was the claim that Igbo “money mindedness” was the reason for voting for Jonathan: what a joke; some hypocritical ignoramus have been deceiving themselves with this silly joke from time immemorial, but if they care to look around, they would see a Nigeria that has been under the leadership and absolute dominance of other supposed “money hating” ethnic groups since independence yet became the most corrupt country in the world, to the extent that the most basic infrastructure such as electricity, pipe borne water amongst others do not exist. If other ethnic groups are money hating how did Nigeria under their watch become the most corrupt and dysfunctional in the world? Is it an accident that the central issue in Nigeria since the 1st republic has been corruption and all under the leadership and absolute dominance of the same supposed “money hating” ethnic groups? The APC media by these shenanigans only succeeded in exposing how shallow, hypocritical, intolerant, extremist, undemocratic and bigoted they are in stark contrast to the change they preach.
The extremism that marked the elections and the ridiculous post election smear campaigns against those who didn’t vote for Buhari/APC could only have been intended to create a one party state. The conduct of the APC during and after the elections and the commentaries by many Nigerians have proven that the APC does not believe in competitive democracy while a cross segment of Nigerians also see democracy as a zero-sum game tantamount to war. With a combination of these two mindsets from an extremist party and a gullible population Nigeria might well be headed for a one party state. Ordinarily, democracy is universally considered the best political system; premised as it is, on free expression of political opinion, competition and a guarantee of equality. None of these attributes have been true in Nigeria. Neither free opinion nor competition has been guaranteed or respected as groups and individuals have been threatened, intimidated and pilloried for their votes in an obvious attempt to browbeat everyone or an overwhelming majority into subsequently and perpetually voting for the same party thus creating a one party state.
To make matters worse, this outrageous rape of the very concept of democracy has gone on, while the mainstream media, civil rights organisations and those who are expected to know better either said nothing or joined in the charade. Nigeria has always failed because anything we chose to do, we do it in breach. The simple practice of democracy to respect the opinion of voters in a competitive democracy that guarantees equal rights and inclusion has proven impossible. So from the PDP we might yet end up in a one party state that might be worse than anything we have seen before.
Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu